Millennials already make up 50% of the workforce and in the next couple of years, Gen Z and Millennials combined will make up 75% of your workforce. How do we get Gen Z and Millennials to continuously learn so that businesses can stay ahead in our knowledge-based economy?

It is a commonly known fact that Gen Zs and Millennials have shorter attention spans due to the fact that they grew up in the Digital Age where overstimulation is the norm. However, as a member of the Millennial generation, I find that I CAN focus longer than the proven eight-second average when I get into the flow of things, so are the study’s results flawed?

Recent arguments have pointed out that instead of having an eight-second attention span, we have a highly adept eight-second filter that helps us quickly assess whether the information presented is relevant. As a Millennial, I find that looking at the shortened focus as a filter seems to be a better explanation of our behaviour.

Formal Learning vs Informal Learning

Whether we choose to focus and the duration in which we do so depends on the type of learning.

Formal learning is learning which is guided e.g. classroom-based delivered by a teacher while informal learning is self-directed and often relies on the learner’s interest.

For those of you who have been through a formal learning program, you will know that in order to get new knowledge in, one has to focus (longer than eight seconds) on understanding the information, pay attention to details and practice applying the new knowledge through assignments and quizzes in order to commit the new knowledge to memory. Being pushed along by assignment deadlines and examinations, we are able to focus and get through even the driest of topics.

When it comes to informal learning that depends on our interest, we are able to focus for as long as the topic remains of interest but if we come across a topic that isn’t of interest, we disengage completely.

On corporate learning programs…

Corporate learning programs can be formal, informal or anything in between. With corporate learning programs, I find that alignment with my career aspirations and accessibility drive how much I engage with them.

Our formal education can only prepare us for work to a certain extent but once we start working, we have to continuously learn new skills or knowledge that will aid us in developing our careers. I engage more with the corporate learning program when it is closely tailored to my job function, as I know that the skills and knowledge I acquire from the program will help me do my job better.

Another thing that changes when we step into the work force, as opposed to back in school, is that learning no longer is our main priority. Work performance becomes the main priority, peppered with personal commitments in some instances, and it does take a certain level of discipline to follow through any corporate learning program. At the work place, it makes life a lot of easier if the corporate learning program is easily accessible and has a certain degree of flexibility, allowing me to fit learning into my daily workflow.

Well, you may also be curious whether other Gen Zs and Millennials think the same way. In the second episode of SmartUp’s podcast, we got our Gen Z and Millennials colleagues to share more on how their attention spans work. Check it out for greater perspectives!